The state legislature is considering a number of directions for criminal justice reform. The purpose of this series of posts is to create a repository of relevant background data and to surface that data for vetting. Comments adding facts and new data sources will be especially appreciated.
Basic Crime and Incarceration Statistics
My personal takeaways from these basic statistics are:
- Incarceration rates have risen sharply over the past few decades and remain troublingly high, especially in communities of poverty and color.
- Legislative policy changes have probably not been the primary drivers of that incarceration growth.
- To reduce the footprint of the criminal justice system in communities of poverty and color, drug sentencing policy changes will help, but we also need to look more broadly at the whole correctional process (and also keep working on fundamentals like education, jobs and housing).
Statistics about Mandatory Minimums for Drug Offenses
My personal takeaways from these statistics on mandatory minimums are:
- Repealing the drug mandatories will have very modest impact on the overall incarceration rate in Massachusetts — this reinforces the previous conclusion that we need a broader agenda.
- The disproportionate impact of drug charges on minorities and the risk of arbitrary application, especially as to the school zone (and perhaps the 2d offense charge), do make repeal important anyway.